Sunday, 27 April 2014

Two popes canonised

Three monarchs were present at an open air mass in St Peter's Square in the Vatican City this morning as the late popes John XXIII and John Paul II were canonised by the current Pope.
John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 till his death in 2005, was beatified in 2011 and his canonisation is the fastest since saints ceased being declared by local acclamation and became the exclusive prerogative of the reigning pontiff nearly a thousand years ago. John XXIII, whose pontificate lasted from 1958 to his death in 1963, was beatified in 2000.
The Catholic Church normally requires two so-called "miracles" for someone to be declared saints, but Pope Francis chose to waive this rule in the case of John XXIII, as he has done in other recent cases. It is assumed that Pope Francis may feel some sort of identification with the folksy, easy-going, much-loved John XXIII.
It is the first time that two popes have been canonised at the same time and it has been suggested that Pope Francis chose to canonise the progressive John XXIII together with the conservative John Paul II, whose canonisation he "inherited" from his predecessor, in order to appeal to progressives as well as conservatives, although this has been denied by the Vatican, which insists that they do no make such political considerations.
The canonisation mass drew huge crowds to the Vatican, and among the guests were members of several Catholic royal families. The King and Queen of Spain, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and the Sovereign Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein headed the guest list, while the King of the Belgians was represented by his parents, King Albert and Queen Paola. It was interesting to note that Queen Paola, like Queen Sofía and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, exercised the privilège du blanc, which gives the wives of Catholic monarchs the right to wear white rather than black in the presence of the Pope. However, Queen Paola wore black for a private audience with Pope Francis yesterday (while her daughter, Princess Astrid, wore a white jacket over a black dress). Princess Marie of Liechtenstein wore black, indicating that the privilege has still not been extended to the consort of the Sovereign Prince of Liechtenstein.
The only Protestant royal house represented was the British (although Britain is officially a Protestant country there are now almost more Catholics than Anglicans in Britain), which sent the Duke of Gloucester, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and his wife.
The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg were accompanied by their daughter-in-law, Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie, and two of their sons, Louis and Sébastien. Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein, who is his country's ambassador to the Holy See, attended with his Luxembourgian wife Margaretha (their was the last marriage between two reigning European royal houses), their son Josef-Emanuel, and one of their daughters (Maria-Anunciata, I believe).
Also in attendance were Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland and his predecessor but one Aleksander Kwasniewski, and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

My latest article: Union of Crowns

The May issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 5) has gone on sale in Britain and will soon also be on sale in major European cities and North America, and this month I write about the union of crowns between Norway and Sweden, which lasted from 1814 to 1905.
The article is occasioned by the bicentenary of Norway's independence and the upcoming Scottish referendum about whether to become an independent state in a monarchical union with Britain, which is fairly similar to arrangement Norway entered into with Sweden after achieveing independence in 1814. Perhaps there may be some lessons to learn for the Scots from the Swedish-Norwegian union?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Royal christening at Drottningholm on 8 June

The Swedish royal court has announced that the christening of Princess Leonore will, as expected, take place in the chapel at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm on 8 June, her parents' first wedding anniversary.
Inspired by Rome's Pantheon, this domed chapel in the baroque style from the early eighteenth century, which is the work of the architects Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and Carl Hårleman, is one of the two circular buildings that form the extremes of the long palace façade. It can only seat a limited number of guests, which is the reason why it has been rarely used for royal occasions, although it was the scene for the wedding of Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian on 7 December 1976.
The splendid Drottningholm Palace, located on an island some ten kilometres west of Stockholm, was built for the Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora, the widow of King Carl X Gustaf, who was a great builder, collector and patron of the arts. The current King and Queen made it their home in 1981 and it was there that Princess Madeleine was born the following year and where she grew up. It was also where her and Christopher O'Neill's wedding banquet was held last year. Given Princess Madeleine's attachment to Drottningholm and its association with Queen Hedvig Eleonora and thus the name Leonore it seems a very fitting choice of venue for the christening of the young Princess.
It has not yet been decided if the christening will be televised.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Israeli state visit to Norway

The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, will pay a state visit to Norway on 12 and 13 May. The news has already sparked some controversy in Norway and is likely to lead to further protests related to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. While state visits are undertaken on the invitation of the King it is of course the government which actually makes the decisions about state visits.
It will be the first state visit ever exchanged between Norway and Israel, although there were plans for the King and Queen to pay a state visit to Israel in 2000, a trip which was cancelled due to the outbreak of the second intifada.
It will also be the first incoming state visit to Norway since the visit of President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and his wife Jenni Haukio in October 2012. While there used to be on average two state visits abroad and two incoming state visits per year recent years have for unknown reasons seen a decline in the number of state visits.
The King and Queen will receive another foreign head of state on 30 April, when King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians make a so-called introductory visit to Oslo, but this will not be a state visit.